Discover what happened to your family in WWI

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has released 300,000 documents relating to Armed Forces members killed in the First World War, helping you finally solve family mysteries…

Credit: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

For many, it is an age-old question. “What did my relatives do during the First World War? How can I find out what happened to them?”

Now millions of people across the Commonwealth can find answers to these questions by discovering more about relatives who fought and died during the Great War, thanks to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). It has launched two new resources designed to help the public gain a greater understanding of those who lost their lives in service during the war.

The unveiling of the CWGC‘s recently completed online archives and the brand new Discover 14-18 microsite will make locating and visiting memorial sites of relatives and loved ones killed in the war easier than ever before. The online resources will also greatly enhance the service that the CWGC is able to provide to the 1.6 million people who contact it every year.

Founded in 1917, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission operates in over 23,000 locations in 153 countries. It is responsible for marking and caring for the graves and memorials of over 1.7 million Commonwealth war dead from the two World Wars. As part of the centenary of the First World War this August, it has also undertaken a five-year project, scanning over 300,000 working documents relating to those who died in action, which have been uploaded to the new website.

The documents give unique insight into the process of commemoration undertaken by the Army and the CWGC after the First World War, including details of personal headstone inscriptions, date of death, rank, regiment and documents that show the journey of the dead to their burial place.

Andrew Fetherston, the CWGC’s Archivist and Records Manager, said: “For the first time, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is providing public access to the hundreds of thousands of documents in its archive. The documents are a window into the Commission’s past, and the incredible work carried out after the war, to ensure those who died will not be forgotten.

“As working documents, it is fascinating to see the typed and handwritten lists, the corrections and notes as they strived for accuracy. For the families of those we commemorate, these records give a snapshot into the processes by which their relatives would have been identified and buried, or commemorated on a memorial, and give a direct link back to a time in the immediate aftermath of the war.”

In addition to this, the brand new Discover 14-18 microsite will enable the public to visit the CWGC memorial sites more easily during this centenary year, improving their understanding of the history and events surrounding the cemeteries and memorials. The site features a timeline and events calendar of the First World War, and content is themed around the major battles and the different roles played by the Armed Forces. It is a fantastic research tool for anyone with an interest in discovering what happened to their relatives, giving them the chance to fully comprehend the sacrifices that were made in the name of their country.

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